No action over Hartlepool council data breaches

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
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Council workers have breached data laws by accessing sensitive information.

But despite the infringements, no one has resigned or been convicted.

We take all breaches of data protection very seriously and any breach is always fully investigated to ensure that lessons are learned.

Hartlepool Borough Council

Details uncovered through Freedom of Information requests to councils across the country found in Hartlepool, between 2011 and last year, there were three instances where there were breaches of rules.

The first resulted in a final warning for a member of staff.

That was issued after they deliberately accessed, attempted to look at or browsed information relating to the Department for Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs without a legitimate business reason or appropriate authorisation.

Another incident involved unauthorised reviewing of personal data, which resulted in “informal guidance” being issued.

The third inquiry was sparked after a deliberate act of attempting to view or browse data without business reason or appropriate authorisation, with no disciplinary action taken.

A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “Data protection is a top priority for the council and we carry out regular reviews to ensure that we have robust systems and procedures in place.

“We take all breaches of data protection very seriously and any breach is always fully investigated to ensure that lessons are learned.

“Training is also provided to staff on an ongoing basis to ensure that they fully understand their responsibilities.”

Emma Carr, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, which lodged the information requests, said: “Despite local councils being trusted with increasing amounts of our personal data, this report highlights that they are simply not able to say it is safe with them.

“With only a tiny fraction of staff being disciplined or dismissed, this raises the question of how seriously local councils take protecting the privacy of the public.

“Far more could be done to prevent and deter data breaches from occurring.”